Island Blog – Forward to go

Today I drove the hill road into the harbour town to meet a friend. I was early and picked the sofa and the comfy armchair beside a warm open fire. The buzz was…..theatrical. I think I say this because the welcoming staff were all dressed in colours, with rings and tattoos and artistically coloured hair. Smiles wide, looking at me. I get it. An old woman in a big frock with bare legs and short boots and a home-fashioned jacket, seeded once in an old cardigan that freaked out when I washed it on ‘Too Warm’. I had thought at first, dog blanket, then I heard the story in it. My feisty impossible mother-in-law had knitted this thing, and for me. That had to have been days of knitting; days of love and commitment. No, I will lift this hunched and crunched woollen thing into my life, breathe my breath into it. Okay, great big respect. Now what? It thought me. I decide to wheech out the material drawer. I find velvet, or something that thinks it’s velvet and it is not for me to disappoint it as I finger the hold of it, the depth and then bring my own knowing into this I am Velvet thing. I am quiet on the subject, lifting out the deep colours, just knowing that this Not Velvet will be a right bugger to shape. It won’t shape. It yawls like sails in a slack-flack wind somewhere off Cherbourg. Hmmm.

I brought down my ridiculously pink tailors dummy on a white stick. I laid the compromised cardigan around her perfect pink shoulders, marvelling, with a snort, at her perfect pink breasts. I tell her this. I am amazed that anything I make for me, knowing my own body and using you as a caption of what I never was can ever fit, not with those pointy things almost taking my eye out each time I move around to pin or tuck, or wheech. But I, we, move on. She stands quiet whilst I pin and sew, pin and sew and then it is done, this bejewelled jacket that can only come out for air on dry winter days. Two, maybe three. Today was one so there won’t be many more.

We ordered soup. It’s always home made and so is the bread, so are the scones and the sweet baking. The fire was tended by a smiling young man. I hailed an artist I know well, one who has got his work into the online Saatchi gallery, and congratulated him as he passed by. There was a writing group just finishing up on a table nearby and I hailed the leader and signed myself up. So cosy in there, so easy, so fine-art. After lunch we visited the new exhibition, all local artists. I was enthralled at the work. I knew most of the artists just from their work. Many had sold and I was not surprised. I talked with my friend, an art therapist working with textiles, and we laughed and shared and quite forgot our old caring roles as we became two women in a space, with nothing but forward to go.

Island Blog – Flowing Free

I hear the drips plopping into my little jug below the hole in the plaster. It used to infuriate me. Ach, another leak, even though it was not ‘another’, but instead the only one after years of buckets catching loads of leaks. How odd it is, when I think on it, that my leaking past jumps into my now, irrelevantly. I pause and rejig myself. Always a good idea and certainly for me. It is so easy to wear the gloom clothing, after all when Gloom is busy elsewhere and quite fed up with the fact that yet another human is calling him back. I wonder about Gloom. Is he actually an okay sort of person, one who had no idea when the gods gave him the Gloom job that he would be so busy and for so long? I have one small leak in a place where the rain falls like it just has to barf and the only place that allows is it in is here on the very Westerly West of Scotland; the last place before said rain makes no impact whatsoever in the wild expanse of the great Atlantic Ocean, an expanse of so much water that any amount of rain spill goes unnoticed. And we all want to be noticed.

I see the mosaic of infracted plaster overhead and I see art. Soon, I will need to pull it down, again. But, for now, it is rather beautiful and it thinks me. This morning woke me different. Yes, I had been up within the night, padding down for a cup of herbal and to leave my worries behind. Why they all tangle in the bed sheets is a mystery to me, but they do. If I walk down the stairs, I leave them behind and when I return, they’ve bored themselves out in the waiting and I can lie down without the damn things. I secretly believe they have no substance, hence the frishing away so quickquick. I have learned this technique over many years of believing they were the truth and holding on to them, thus allowing them to define me, to trip me up, to collude and to coagulate so that breakfast is always, was always, a guilt trip. To hell with that nonsense now. Here I am, dancing alone to Mr Beaujangles, in my kitchen, remembering the days when I could actually dance, catching my face in a passing mirror and seeing an old white haired woman who bears no relation to the one I know myself to be, and I rest and I chuckle. A So What, rises in me. And I like So What.

I spend the day completing a tapestry. For me, there is a story in every one. I give them away. I don’t sell. If someone identifies with the mountains, the tidal flow, the moon, the little home tucked away behind rocks, a safe place, then their story connects with mine. It was all I ever wanted and I got my dream. I am lucky. Folk say that we make our own luck and I agree to a degree but they miss the point. It is gratitude I am feeling, communicating, and the rest is just semantics. Words change, meanings change over time, over generations, and all of that is just as it is. Flow is key. Moving on with whatever comes at us, no matter how much value we put on the past of our past, means we don’t die wishing things were as they were. And I am so not doing that. Was is, not is. Can never be.

I walk inside the sheets of rain this afternoon as the light dims with two friends. We laugh in the rain, the diversity of dogs and their boundary shouts. To be honest, the only shouter was Poppy, but, thankfully, my friends were kind about her issues with any dog walking on what she considers to be her patch and her patch alone. No matter how often I tell her we do not own these lands, she is strong in her confidence, but it slows and calms quite quickly and so we walk together through lashing rain and bright fallen beech leaves coppering our path, larch needles like exclamation marks, crushed rowan berries, blood drops beneath our feet. We talk of village matters, of a strong and wonderful man who died yesterday, and, at that, we pause. This man is gone. His wife is in shock. We are not in that place. She and her children are not in free flow, but we are. We cannot change their situation but we can change ours because of their situation. We do it as we come through the kissing gate. We hold the news, together. And, in a few seconds we rejig our own lives, our own petty angst and we flow again, we flow free.

Island Blog – Moss and Otherness.

Underneath a humungous fallen pine, some years down, is a dazzling carpet of moss. There is Fingerley moss fronding through the cracked bark, delicate falls of emerald stems, each lifting softly in response to the heckling rain. It isn’t heavy, not soaking me or the little dog, just pinging wet drops at us all for the fun of it. The puddley dyke is drying up so anything damp is going to help revive the frogspawn I noticed a few days ago, although it’s too little too late, methinks. Old leaves mulch down, retreating back into the earth as food for the next thrust of life. It’s coming, at last.

Star moss grows down in the peaty bit, stunning bunches of delicate stalks with a star on top, facing up. Big rocks, upon which this giant landed, are coated in Afro moss, so tightly affixed they could fool you into seeing a soft landing. To throw myself onto one would end me up with broken ribs and embarrassment rising, so I don’t. Then there’s Moss moss that covers anything it fancies covering. They all look fabulous and green and very much alive. The otherness beneath the lonesome pine, which, in its dying grabbed a larch tree on the way, poor love, and has pinned her to the ground ever since, includes little yellow things that tell me they are dandelions but are obviously lying, Monbretia which doesn’t bloom till after lockdown and other coloured things I don’t have names for. None of them seem to mind that at all.

The sky is milk with a whisper through of grey. It is also shut if you don’t count the spits of rain. Sometimes if I look hard enough at a shut sky, I can find a smile of light, enough to believe in, but not today. Today it is just a flat white. Walking under the sky always marvels me. It stays up and I stay down. Such a synergistic friendship, and long may it remain that way or we’ll have Chicken Licken getting into another flapdoodle. A raven floats overhead, that sharp-eyed carnivore with a taste for lambs, parping like the horn on Noddy’s car. His mate follows. There is something both regal and scary about ravens. All that black and so much of it and so intelligent. Way back in the days of Tapselteerie we tried to get rid of a pair of ravens. It probably wasn’t legal but they took too many little woolly jumpers at lambing time. They nested on a cliff face which made it extremely difficult to get anywhere near them and they would have known our intention from the very moment we donned our balaclavas. Needless to say, we didn’t succeed and I imagine they live still as they have no predators save man.

Across the sea-loch I see a holiday cottage. Empty, of course, as they all are now. Elevated standards count for nothing in these times. You could have Moss moss on the inside of your windows as we always did or an immaculate palace of a moss-less place and still nobody would come. It’s all rather levelling. This virus is catalytic and no mistake. I look ahead a month or two, seeing the same road winding on into the distance, every walker keeping 2 metres away from any encounter, touching nothing, holding breath. Then I look around my home at the books, the things, the bibelots that gather dust now that my lovely cleaners are holed up in their own burrow. The news is just numbers where it once managed a few words in between the latest statistical revelation. Drink is bad, drink is good, children are important until they drive you bonkers whence that importance retreats into the latest Pixar movie with enough popcorn to rot the collective teeth of a whole country within 45 minutes. Meditation is calming unless you get they giggles as I do and exercise is an excellent plan as long as you do it alone and in the wilderness or at midnight.

And we knit on, we tough, inventive humanoids, or sew, or paint, cook and sort out drawers and cupboards, and we dust the bibelots. We are learning to move more slowly through each project, taking time, perhaps as a first, to consider the minutiae, maybe even to read the rules. And this will do us no harm at all. Watching moss, any moss, takes considerable self control. My legs are all a-jiggle. Stand still, I tell them and they huff. But it is good re-training. It is good to sit and read, even in the mornings, to call a friend, to FaceTime, to start a jigsaw (that’s as far as I ever got with a jigsaw), tend the garden, watch the moss.

Mother Nature has called a halt. She wants her finery back, her intelligent order and we, who have turned her world into a veritable tatterdemalion must listen and we must learn.

Island Blog – Space

Today the photography volunteers have been given the name of their project.  Minimalism.  I watch them wander around the reserve, deep in thought, eyes looking down, eyes looking up, looking out, thinking in.  What does minimalism mean to me?  Is it this leaf in a dustbowl, or that emerald green gecko shinning up a fat brown tree?  What do I hear while I seek my subject?  What do I feel, how do I feel?  Someone hunkers down to take a picture of an attention bell, one of those ping things that sit at reception when reception has popped out for a pee.  She places it carefully on the wide stone floor and crouches down to get it right.  I see the bell, tiny in such a lot of negative space.  From above it certainly is minimalism.  A child’s boat in a great stone ocean.  From down there, where she is, the bell becomes huge and the stone ocean goes on for ever, or, at least, until it meets the wall.

At art school we were required to work on negative space.  I hadn’t a scooby what that was, thinking it was something dodgy, the opposite of positive space, if, indeed that’s not an oxymoron. I found it extremely difficult at first, looking at what wasn’t there, the space in between the things that were.  We had to look, see, draw the spaces, not the jugs or benches or trees or parked cars.  All I could see was physical presence until, eversoslowly, just as my eyeballs threatened early closing, I got it, saw it and it was huge.

My understanding of opposites can often be This or That.  I forget there are many miles in between the two, many colours, hues, options.  Inhabiting that space is something I need to re-train my mind to work with.  A physical life requires certain choices between This and That and decisions are based on what I see, what is available, what is acceptable in any given moment.   We like routine, most of us, known quantities of things fixable and in good working order, things we use in our daily lives.  There is, after all, a time and place for everything, is there not? I want a positive space to live in, one that protects me, mostly, from myself, one that nurtures, one I can see clearly and understand.

At home, I would call those times of deep internal unrest, negative space.  Instead of really looking into that space, seeing it for what it is and allowing it just to be, I feel that I need to colour it in with my own pack of crayons.  I need to get busy, sweep the floor, cook something, change a bed, anything that gives me good grasp of the positive, the physical. What I can touch reassures me.  At least, over these things, I have control. That awful empty space back there, the one I just ran away from, the one full of unhappy thoughts and doubts and fears, well I sincerely hope that, by the time I descend the stairs, it has flown out the window.  Go pray on someone else you horrid negative space.  I’m fine now, with my pinny on and not long till lunch and the aftermath of dishes and cups to wash and dry.  When I focus on the tasks ahead of me, I can feel the calm.  There is always something to be done, after all, something that demands straightening, or mending, or wiping down, and once collected in an orderly fashion inside my mind, I am happy again. I am safe.  this life is just fine.

However, this is a life out of balance.  It must be, because the negative space is still there and it still bugs me. I don’t ask for it but it has something of import to show me.  Drawing the space in between two jugs, I began to notice the distance.  It wasn’t empty at all.  Behind the jugs I could see someone’s hand as they drew their own negative space, a corner of a cupboard, a snatch of white-scuffed blackboard, and even further back, the branch of a tree through the murky window.  It made me realize that I could look for ever into negative space and find positives, but distant positives, not too close, not mine to fix or mend or rearrange.  They were simply there.  I could fill in the gaps, complete the cupboard, the hand or the tree in my mind, but, somehow, I didn’t need to.

In order to control my mind, my thoughts, thoughts that fuel my choices of action and thoughts that will always have consequences, I need discipline, but discipline and I have never enjoyed each other’s company. I didn’t ever complete the drawing (no discipline!) because I was so pulled into the space.  I may have been given  poor marks, but what I learned about negative space back then has become a life-long fascination.  The trick is to be able to inhabit it, just as it is.  Those times of discomfort and self-doubt will still come to me.  I can fill them with stuff and noise and self pity; I can beat myself up, tear myself to shreds with my hyena teeth, or I can simply let them wash over me and move on.  I doubt that I will ever learn my way around them, never ‘complete’ my drawing, but if I just sit and let them come to me, surround me, without fear……. if I can find the courage to do that, I believe I will, at last, be able to say this is Me.

No apology.

 

Island Blog 78 – Reality Check

crazy

I have sailed the seas in a ship made of diamonds

pearl coloured sails and the moonlight to guide

I have swum in the depths and played in the shallows

felt the child in my womb jump for joy in the night

but wherever I go, that’s where I’ll find me

there’s no running away.

For I always need to come home again

even if voices may beg me to stay.

When I write a song, I just let the words flow.  Nonsense a lot of the time, but this doesn’t bother me.  Nonsense never did.  What bothers me is what the world calls reality.

If I set off into reality, to scrub a bathroom, say, or plunder the veg counter in the local shop, I can call it whatever I want.  If it’s me, which I usually am, I will find faces among the brassicas and patterns in the legume basket.  Bananas are definitely grammar (( as are the full stops of blueberries, although the mushy ones could be commas.  In the bathroom, I can set up quite a rhythm with the loo brush around the bowl, and a serious counterpoint if I add the squirts of cleaner at just the right moment.  Over at the basin, there is a splendid piece of art going on with shaving foam droplets and toothpaste in a lovely concave composition, one I almost don’t want to wipe away.

Downstairs, the new washing machine having finally laid down moorings (I found the spirit level), hums and sloshes and the washing powder tin on the shiny white top, thrums a little to itself.  In the kitchen, I can whizz, chop, stir fry or simmer.  The fridge, faulty, bless it, but still going, hums and burps and emits sudden gurgles, much like a happy baby.  When the man of the house makes a sandwich, the floor takes on a wonderful speckle, that looks as if we had an early flurry of snow, and when the little dog laps her water, the spilled drops reflect the sunlight and sparkle like jewels.

On the line, the breeze pulls and pushes at the washing, slowly, at first and faster as the water moisture lifts back into the sky, whence it came, via the tank in the loft, of course.

I have flown as high as the geese and then higher,

burst like a seed through the hymen of space

I have watched a star explode into millions

new lights for the darkness, in patterns of lace

But wherever I go, that’s where I’ll find me

there’s no running away

for I always need to come home again

even though voices may beg me to stay.

lucky that.

Island Blog 25 – As I believe, I will achieve

Skyline

If we don’t try things out, how can we know if we like them or not, that’s what I ask myself as I hover on safe ground looking into unknown territory.

Such as the Hair Care products in a supermarket, a line of shelves that stretches for half a mile and each brightly coloured tube or tin or tub, all with impossible-to-open lids, promising that my life will change the instant I apply the goo/foam/wax or cream to my head.

And that’s just the Hair Care section.  I could spend 3 weeks in one store bamboozling my brain with options. In fact, if I believed all of it, or even some of it, I could emerge a completely different person, transformed by ‘product’ into Superwoman, or, at least, as someone a whole lot more beautiful than the one that walked me in.

In this world that refuses to allow me to be ‘myself’ I can get lost. I forget to hear only the voice of my higher self, my instinct and listen, instead to all those whispers that dart around my head like swallows catching flies. When I am faced with a bigger set of options, like changing careers for example, I can either follow my heart, or follow everyone else’s opinions and, if I do that, I just go round in circles until I am wheezing with the exertion and still standing in the same place.

What I do is say nothing.

When I decided, after 35 years of doing the same thing, pushed on by need for cash to pay bills, low self-esteem and self-doubt, to leap into Art School, the world was aghast. Well, not the WHOLE world of course, but the little one I lived in, because nobody but me felt the blood rush and excitement at the very thought of changing lanes. Actually, it was more like deciding to walk against the traffic in a fog without a fluorescent jacket, but I had to do it. The idea grew skin over its bones and filled with strong red blood overnight and I was in its thrall; captivated and, for the first time in years, truly alive.

When I take a risk, I know who I am. I don’t follow the flow just because that is what we should do.  I may be laughed at, or ridiculed, or, at the very least, carefully interrogated by those closest to me, but I know now it is not necessarily because they think my nut case idea is dangerous or destructive.  It is more that they are a little envious that anyone could kick against the pricks and still be able to walk and run and dance.

I don’t sit down and draw up a risk situation. Risk comes to me, through the ether, from the clouds, and it will not be denied however much I may flap it away with my tea towel.

If Risk knocks at your door, let him in. For beside him stands Lady Providence and she is the one who will walk beside you if you just have the courage to take the first baby step.

Someone once said that needless consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and I agree. Until I broke free, and not from others, but from my own fear and doubt. Our minds are not small at all, and each one of us can move a mountain, if we just believe.

‘Make the Jump’